April 10, 2015

In Her Shoes: A Christian Woman Who's Had An Abortion (Part Two)

In Part One of this In Her Shoes series, a Christian woman shared about her rebellion against God and the circumstances surrounding her two abortions. Today, she tells about how God redeemed her and how she's experienced true forgiveness.

What were you living with in your day-to-day life?
I kept my abortions secret for a long time, although there were constant reminders of what I'd done. For example, every time I went to a medical appointment and they asked about previous pregnancies, I would admit one abortion but not both. It seemed to me that if you make a mistake once, people can forgive you. But if you make a mistake twice, it cements who you are.
Describe the wrestling inside as you tried to reconcile your present with your past.
Over the years, I grew spiritually, despite this buried secret. I was able to serve in the church and other women, but I lived with a nagging sense of “if these Christian women knew who I was and what I’d done, there would be no room for them to embrace me as their friend”. That thought encouraged me to keep it quiet and keep it buried. I didn’t want everyone to know who I was. I was pretty open with everything else in my life, but not this one thing. I felt certain godly women would walk away from me in horror.

At this point, I was completely familiar with the scriptures. I would read Psalm 139 and wish I’d read it before my abortions. I hadn’t known those words about life in the womb were there. I had been raised in the church and didn’t know that was there. It fueled my desire to know Scripture and know exactly what it teaches. I also became aware of abortion being wrong and against God’s plan. The more I was convicted of how wrong it was, the more I was sure of my own shame.

I knew all sins were the same in God’s eyes. But in reality, we do compare our sins. Confessing impatience doesn’t sound the same as confessing murder. I wondered if God saw sins differently. I was panicked for years that abortion is the sin that can’t be forgiven. I didn’t think God could forgive me for this.

How did you move from long-term shame to sharing it with someone?
I had so much anger at myself, and eventually I just got sick of living with the secret. I so badly wanted to hear something different than what I was telling myself about how God couldn’t forgive me. I needed to talk about it.

I was also aware of my long term sadness. Threads of that were affecting my life. God had revealed to me over a period of time all the shame and sadness and fear of punishment I held and how heavy the weight was. Eventually I got to the point where I considered that if what I believe the gospel is true, then certainly healing was available to me. I needed to accept the truth of the gospel for myself. It was if God were saying to me, “You say you believe the Word I’ve given you. You say you want to honor Me, but you’re not walking the walk, because you’re not believing I’ve forgiven you.”

What made you finally decide to do something about it?
I had a conversation with a friend who I felt was safe to share with. She’d told me at some point, “Shame thrives in secrecy. There is healing available through confession. Confession is the first step toward experiencing God’s healing.” It was extremely hard to say it, but I confessed my abortions to her. I hadn’t really believed that saying it out loud would help, but I felt a progressive lightening of the shame, and that was a compelling catalyst for looking into how I could pursue healing. I didn’t feel forgiven by God in the moment I confessed, and I didn't think I was ever going to feel forgiven, but I desperately wanted to. At the least, I wanted to know how to walk in faith that I was forgiven. I decided to pursue a group study to at least know the scriptures and act like I’m forgiven, though I didn’t think I would feel forgiven.

What did you do next?
I went to a group led by three women who were post-abortive. We had a weekend retreat and then 8 weeks of meeting together and studying Scripture. It was important to me that the group be led by women who were post-abortive.

The first day of the study, I said, “I want to feel forgiven”. But I was surprised I said that because I felt certain it would never happen.

Do you feel forgiven now? If so, how did you get to that place?

I do. The Lord touched me exactly how I needed according to how I am put together. He knows that it has to be in Scripture for it to speak to me. He used the scriptures I’d read countless times, but He opened my eyes so I could read them in new ways.

What are some of those passages that spoke to you?
The first one is in Exodus, when the Pharaoh ordered all the Hebrew women to kill their firstborn. Moses’ mom chose to not do that. What I was struck by is that this was an act their culture expected of them. The same is true for our culture in that it’s accepted. There were women in the Old Testament who had to kill their babies. I didn’t have to; I chose to. I had no problem believing God forgave them, so why couldn’t He forgive me? That was healing for me.

The second passage was about David and his desire for Bathsheba. He so badly wanted her, and when he got her pregnant, he wanted a quick fix for the problem of Uriah. He chose to end a life to get what he wanted. I chose to end a life because I didn’t want the responsibility of a baby. I was so focused on what I thought I wanted and what I needed; I didn’t think about the fact that I was going to kill a life. David killed for similarly selfish reasons. Right after Uriah died, David took Bathsheba into his household and she bore him a son. You can almost sense David’s relief when he got what he wanted,  almost like he got away with it. I could relate to that short term period of feeling immense relief after the abortions. But the very next sentence in Scripture says, “But the thing David had done displeased the Lord”. And then the Lord sent Nathan to David. God, through Nathan, pursued David to help him confess the sin. God so badly wanted to restore His relationship with David that He pursued him. 

When David was confronted by Nathan, he confessed his sin. At this point in the study, I kind of got stuck. Not admitting my sin was like wearing a 2000 pound weight around my neck. It limited what I was able to offer the Lord, because I hadn’t let go of the shame. I hadn’t allowed the forgiveness. I had asked for it over and over again, but I hadn’t accepted it. I couldn’t serve the Lord to the full extent because I wasn’t fully available. David had responded differently, however. He let it go. And he was called a man after God’s heart. I knew I needed to let it go and accept God’s forgiveness. 

The third verse that God used was Philippians 3:13. Paul, who doesn’t have the best past, says he focused on what’s in front of him and not behind him. In order to do that, you have to deal with what’s behind. If you don’t accept forgiveness, you can’t move forward. Not accepting the forgiveness was limiting my ability to glorify the Lord.

The Lord brings healing to everyone differently. He needed to touch me in the way that I would respond. When I saw His specific care toward me, I remember thinking, “The desire to feel forgiven was the desire of my heart, and God’s given it. I feel forgiven now.” 

I took a step forward in faith and He poured grace and love all over me. I remember praying, “Lord, I will take at step toward You, but I just want this to be between you and me. I don’t want you to use it in the lives of other women.” But because He abundantly poured grace and love all over me, I now can’t help but to want to talk about it, because it’s not about me anymore, it’s about Him.

I still feel a lot of sorrow and sadness about the choices I made. I feel disgust for myself, not in a browbeating way, but a disgust for the way I was living my life. I don’t know if that goes away. I don’t think that it should be my expectation that it will go away. We should feel disgust over evil and sin. I hate abortion as much as the person who's never had one. But I do think that because I’ve known the depths of my sin, I’ve digested the gospel in a way that I’m not so sure if I would’ve if I hadn’t wrestled with all of this. My life is a perfect example of God taking something evil and turning it into something for His glory.

Going through the experience of grieving and reliving these experiences, but also feeling forgiven and hope for my future and an enormous weight cut off my back has been much like feeling death and resurrection all at the same time. I’ve felt the gospel. I'm grateful for that, though not grateful for the experience. I feel like I understand grace much better than I did a year ago. And the natural response is to want to pour that onto other people for His glory.

For people who are reading this who have had an abortion, what would you say to them?
Healing is available to you. If you take one step forward, God will go above and beyond for you. If you’re living with shame, that is weighing you down. If you really want to serve the Lord, you have to get rid of it. Again, you just take one step and He’s going to make it happen for you. You’ll start laughing at how far He goes. He lavishes it on you, so you can’t miss it. 

Men are involved in every abortion. There is a different piece for them because they didn’t have the baby in their body. Some men have had abortions and didn’t have a choice in it. Whatever the case, the same healing and forgiveness from God is available for them.

An important part for me was having women who have not had an abortion show me God’s grace through how they treated me. That was tangible grace. They still loved me, they weren’t turning away in horror. That was the face of God to me. There is obvious worry in putting stuff out there, that people will judge. I feel sorry for those who judge, because they are missing the point. They haven’t fully accepted the grace that covers all of us. Grace frees you to not be identified by your past. I am not my past. 
For people who read this who haven’t had an abortion, what would you want them to know?
If you haven’t had an abortion, please know that your acceptance and love of a post-abortive woman are critical and help with healing for her. Also, it is not only about what you can give to that woman. She has something to offer you when it comes to understanding grace and forgiveness. Because we all have shame, we carry little secrets around feeling as if we’re not worthy of God. Learn from the woman who’s been forgiven of abortion, because her life shows the extent of God’s love and grace toward His children. Think about the woman pouring out perfume on Jesus’ feet. She knew the gift of forgiveness. The Pharisee standing by, complaining about the waste, had something to learn from her but he missed it. He missed what God made beautiful about her. 

The statistics are high for Christian women and abortion. Be aware that there are men and women in your congregation who have made this choice and are dealing with shame of it. Pastors, when you speak about abortion and the sanctity of life, remember these men and women. Say to them, “We see you, we love you, there is healing available to you.” Let them know there are biblical resources available to them. Convey acceptance and love.

What resources would you recommend?

For a full list of recommended resources for women and men who are post-abortive, as well as resources for churches and ministers, please click here.

I love that she says, "Grace frees us to not be identified by our past." If we are in Christ, we are identified only as God identifies us: as holy, righteous, redeemed children of God. I rejoice in what God has done in this woman's life, and what He's done in mine! I rejoice that He can do the same for you.